He let me keep the fork, not that it’s of any use, with its twisted tines and handle. I’ve tried to re-shape the metal, but can’t get it to budge. So how did Luis Carreon bend it with his mind?
At just 22 years old, Carreon, the head demonstrator at Lincoln Square’s Magic Inc. (5082 N. Lincoln Ave.), is a rising star on Chicago’s magic scene and currently gaining national exposure as a contestant on Estrella TV’s Tengo Talento, the Latino version of America’s Got Talent. This weekend he brings his show, Bending Minds and Bending Dreams, to the Bughouse Theater (2054 W. Irving Park Rd.) where no fork is safe.
“I think I fell in love with magic at the age of eight or nine,” says Carreon. His grandfather was a clown with Mexico’s Circo Hermanos Vazquez and young Luis was intrigued with his elder’s simple tricks.
At about the same time, Carreon’s family moved to Chicago from Mexico. “I could barely speak English, it was hard making friends,” he recalls. His solution: to communicate via magic.
He practiced simple tricks–vanishing coins, pulling scarves out of sleeves–and began to frequent Izzy Rizzy’s novelty store on South Pulaski Road. “I used to go in there and buy little things, once a month.” Carreon is almost entirely self-taught, learning by watching and reading.
“People see a magic thing for seconds, they don’t realize that effect took months or even years to get it right.”
Mike Rzeminski, the owner of Izzy Rizzy’s, saw a unique talent in Carreon and booked early gigs for Luis, mostly children’s birthday parties. “He pushed me to do magic professionally,” credits Carreon.”He was the first person who actually helped me.”
His parents, on the other hand, were initially less than thrilled with their son’s career choice. “They were not OK with it,” he says, and pushed him toward a more stable line of work, like construction. His mother came around after watching Bending Minds. “She had tears in her eyes. It was a really touching moment.”
Through a combination of performance bookings and his job at Magic Inc., Carreon is able to cobble together a living as a magician, though he concedes it’s a tough market. YouTube has taken some of the, well, magic out of magic, and children, formerly a natural audience for illusionists, are more enthralled with technology than tricks.
“There was a point where I was doing walk-around magic,” he says. Approaching a table, parents would give him their attention but “kids are with their iPads or like ‘I’m playing World of Warcraft.’”
Carreon’s response has been to craft a more modern show–no pulling rabbits out of hats, no “pick a card.” For his latest act, he created a trick that involves showing the audience a restaurant menu, folding it up, asking for someone to think about a certain menu item, and then producing the actual item. When he pulled a burger out during a show at Hamburger Mary’s, the crowd went wild.
“I wanted to make this more believable,” he says, which is one reason he makes use of common objects like bananas and the aforementioned fork. “People are used to seeing the colorful stuff. What would look real?”
In addition to his upcoming show at Bughouse, Carreon is hoping to schedule an extended run of Bending Minds at Hamburger Mary’s. Having survived the first round of Tengo Talento, he has his sights set on advancing further in the competition, though he’s realistic about claiming the top prize.
“For the most part, those shows are looking for the next Justin Bieber, and I can’t be Justin Bieber.”
What he can do is bring a bit of magic into people’s everyday lives. “If somebody comes to the show and I can make them forget their problems for the next hour and 30 minutes, I did my job.”
Catch Bending Minds and Bending Dreams, Saturday, Sept. 22, 8 p.m., at Bughouse Theater, 2054 W. Irving Park Rd.; admission is $10.